NBA Press Release
  22 January 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Adivasi Village of Narmada Valley Achieves Energy Self-Sufficiency; Bilgaon Electrifies itself with 15 KW Micro-Hydel Project

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Sankranti is a time to rejoice for every village but especially so this year for Bilgaon located in the Satpuda range of the Narmada valley. On January 14 about four thousand people gathered in Bilgaon to inaugurate the first micro-hydel project in Maharshtra built through shramdaan. More than 2000 person-days of voluntary work went into building a 2 m high, 70 m long weir/check dam, canal, penstock and turbine to tap the potential energy of a waterfall that drops 9m on the Udhai river.

Designed by two young engineers Anil and Madhu from People's School of Energy, who began their journey with Pathanpara microhydel project in Kerala, this is not only a first for Maharashtra but also creates a role for adivasi Panchayats such as Chikhli gram panchayat, Akrani Taluka, Nandurbar District, which stood behind Bilgaon's Project. In Kerala, the state has since empowered panchayats to be able to plan and execute their Micro-Hydel projects. Bilgaon Microhydel project has drawn support from several people and groups in Dhule, Mumbai and Kerala who worked side-by-side the village people under the auspices of the Mumbai Sarvodaya Friendship Centre.

Maharshtra is one of the first states to have claimed 100% village electrification. However along with Bilgaon are several hundred adivasi hamlets with no poles, wires or electricity, the grid being too far for these remote villages. A closer look at the government definition shows the loop-holes: a village is deemed electrified if electricity is used within the revenue land of the village. In other words a person having a flash light, or one family within the village having a solar panel would mean in government books that the village is electrifed. In contrast the Micro-Hydel project of Bilgaon assures at least 1 tube light to every house hold of every one of Bilgaon's 12 tribal hamlets spread over several kilometres. There is in addition enough energy for pumping drinking water, livelihood generation such as grinding mills, extraction of oil from mahua seeds and for community agriculture such as nursery to help afforestation and grain bank for food security. The people of Bilgaon have created the Bilgaon Navnirman Samiti where every family is equally represented to plan and share the energy for sustainable development without disparity.

It is in remote villages where alternate energy such as wind, solar, micro-hydel, biogas and pedal power have an urgent role to play. The first electric lights in the 9 boarding schools or Jeevanshalas run by the Narmada Bachao Andolan came through the Bijli Bike or pedal power generator where students share pedaling to light up their classrooms. That was followed by a 300 W "toy-model" Micro-hydel project that lighted up the Narmada Sayagraha. Since then the demand in the villages for alternatives along with the struggle against destructive Sardar Sarovar dam which submerges 33 adivasi villages in Maharshtra (and a total of 250 villages in 3 states) while hundreds of Adivasi hamlets in the same region are without electricity even after 55 years of independence has focussed the energies of concerned citizens on development without destruction.

The adivasi villages in the Narmada valley are looking for a future that is lit up by the energies of concerned citizens, organizations and indeed the nation as a whole. With the help of local panchayats empowered by the state government the people can work on energy solutions and achieve self-sufficiency like Bilgaon.

For photos contact: Ravi and Aravinda - aid@vsnl.com, Phone: 25566703.

Medha Patkar
Pervin Jehangir